Bolton Back To Europa S1E5 – The Fight For Pole Position

After what seemed like two good months of results during November and December, it was not enough to keep my Bolton side top of the table and we were trailing surprise package Grimsby Town by a point. As their momentous form showed, we have some competition in our aim to take the league title.

January is when the winter transfer opens however, I didn’t bring in any new faces nor did anyone leave the squad mainly due to financies and I was generally happy with the current squad. The only update is Isaiah Jones’ loan who was brought in to cover the injury stricken Lloyd Isgrove, had the loan extended until the end of the season as Isgrove was still struggling and picking up knocks. Jones is a good direct player, at this point only 1 goal however, a lot of his appearances come from the bench.

In terms of the team, a front 3 of Balogun – Doyle – Delfouneso is proving effective with Doyle and Delfouneso already in double digits goal wise with Balogun due to join them very shortly…I expect anyway. Ali Crawford is a magician in CM as an advanced playmaker and I have to be pleased with Ryan Delaney as my left centre back, with his strength, tackling and heading abilities. I have sent a scout to Scotland to scope out any potential pre-contracts but I am looking at League 1 standard signings as that is where I expect us to be come the 2021/22 season!

So there’s your general update ladies and gentlemen, now let’s get into the monthly results review..

January 2021

5 league games to contend with including a big match vs. 3rd place Crawley Town, we also have our third round FA cup match up against Brentford…away as well just to add to what will be a tough fixture already. We’re back in the Papa John’s Trophy Northern Section 2nd Knockout Round, taking on the very talented Man Utd U23s who really do have some good young players on FM21.

I was sceptical for the Crawley match, we are a dangerous team no doubt but they had the potential to cause us a few problems. My side managed an early bombardment of attacks from Crawley and then we started rocking grabbing 2 goals just before half time. The second half was poor, nothing really happened but I didn’t care as we saw out a great 2-0 win. On to Exeter who I thought would do bits this season but they find themselves bouncing around mid-table. They were fired up for this game though, storming into an early 2-0 lead, I was incensed by my team’s defending! A half time rinsing and a much needed sub we were like a new team in the second half, with that man Eoin Doyle getting us within a goal before young Ronan Darcy came on to fire us back to 2-2. Fair result for both teams in my eyes.

FA cup action and we travelled to Brentford who fielded a strong side including top bagsman Ivan Toney who put them 1-0 up. Late in the second half we piled on the pressure and grabbed a goal to take it to extra time (no replays due to C-19). Tiredness and difference in quality got to us and Brentford took the tie 3-1, very pleased to take Championship opposition to that length of game though! In the Papa John’s Trophy I did rotate a bit due to fatigue and match load but it was a boring 0-0, barely any highlights so off we went to penalties. Man Utd U23s got the better of us with a 4-3 victory and out we crashed.

Back to League 2 action and we faced the two teams we beat 5-2 in December in Cheltenham & Tranmere. The games were nowhere near as mad but we still grabbed 3 points against both with 2-1 and 2-0 victories. Mansfield who we beat 5-0 at home, I wanted more of the same on our travels and my Bolton lads pulled through with a 3-0 victory, very comfortable throughout in this one. To finish off January, we snuck past Leyton Orient (again!) with a good 1-0 victory. 4 wins on the bounce and racking up decent points with some great form going into February.

February 2021

I had a bit of the buzz with how we picked up again in January only dropping 2 points in the league in the month, morale was absolutely booming throughout the squad and we were slowly getting back to dominating games. Another 5 fixtures to contend with, in my mind Salford would be a test but the other 4 we should be beating.

We drew 0-0 in the reverse with Salford and 1-1 this time. The match itself was great end to end match, lots of chances for both teams and both ‘keepers in inspired form. I enjoyed watching it (well, the key highlights) and on reflection fair play to both teams.

The next 3 games were more comfortable and on the most part controlled by my in form side. Stevenage were swept aside with a dominating 2-0 win, should have been more but we move. Southend away gave us a good 3-1 victory and Scunthorpe who held us to what was a very frustrating 1-1 a few months back, we went one better…literally! 1-0 win, they didn’t threaten and despite the low score my team looked very convincing.

Although despite the 3 victories, one player had hit a rough patch. So much that even the board indicated that they were unhappy with this player’s recent performances which stems back to the start of the win run in January. Folarin Balogun was great in the first half of the season, was playing great as an Inside Forward on the left. The goals had dried up and his match ratings were sitting between 6.2-6.5 a game, often resulting in early substitution or dropping to bench. This gave Isaiah Jones more game time and Ben Cottrell providing useful on that left hand side also with racking up some goals and assists. A one on one chat with Balogun was had, simply telling him I had faith that he would start hitting the net again but only time will tell.

Anyway, where were we? Last league game of February vs. 23rd placed Barrow. These are always dangerous games when you’re at opposite ends of the table and its common to see unexpected results. We got what we deserved in a 0-0 draw, my side were terrible. Constantly giving the ball away, poor crossing and even worse finishing, Barrow defended most of the game but even still had nothing to worry about. I was livid, I rinsed the team (yes, again!). You may be thinking its a point its better than none, which is true but to me you have to expect to win games especially against struggling teams but it was just a poor performance in general – I aim to dominate no matter what but that was far from it.

And breathe…rant over – On reflection, no losses in the league over the two months and not being in any cups seems to be helping in terms of energy levels. In the back of my mind I was thinking how are Grimsby doing as they were up there with us but you wouldn’t believe what has happened..

League Table

Just have a look for yourselves at the table and the form of the top two teams, I was in awe of it, my eyes absolutely lit up!

This was taking after the first fixture in March -SPOILER ALERT – I hold my hands up I forgot to screenshot at the end of February 🙁

Grimsby were in the process of a collapse in form and look like they are starting a losing run. This gives us a cushion but also this screenshot gave me a quick moment to reflect. For one our current points total is outstanding for this stage of the season and only 3 losses in 33 games? You don’t normally get that in League 2 so this is probably above my expectation at this point but we must fight on. A Massive 20 point gap to third and 26 points to outside the play offs, as I’ve said before this squad is good enough to win this league but they now look like they will potentially secure us promotion early which would be fantastic!

What’s Next

Up next we have the end of the season, episode 6 will be monster viewing covering March, April and the month of May where the league finishes. There is a lot going on in league and outside of it as we look to secure promotion with the ultimate goal of being crowned champions in the process. Surely there are some League 2 records to be had too and if there is I’m out to get them.

Episode 6 will be out on 7th January, giving you 3 episodes in a week because that’s what you all deserve, as usual check our twitter feed for the release time – @DP_FMblog and give us a follow whilst you are there to keep up to date with what’s happening and when.

Also whilst you’re on the DP FM website, check out Louis’ tricky challenge series – Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced. Season 2 is underway but let’s be honest you don’t go on Netflix and start a new series from the second season so the link for Season 1 Episode 1 is right here – https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/

Thanks again for reading, we really appreciate all of you and your support so early into our DP FM journey. Catch you all soon 🙂

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